When we think of sensory play we often think logically to the five main senses; sight, smell, touch, sound and taste. We can create a plethora of scented potion play set ups, introducing smell and touch into fun festivities. We can use lights, and glow sticks, balloons filled with rice, messy outdoor painting boards and more. When thinking of outdoor sensory play, we can do all those things and more, however there are other senses that we may use to incorporate in play, and these surround the idea of movement and balance. 

Proprioception and vestibular senses are often a highly needed input for many children and using them in play set ups may encourage children to hone those gross and fine motor skills as well as encouraging lots of movement and balance. In addition and importantly considering these senses in sensory play may give children with diverse sensory needs the input they so require. 

Proprioception relates to a persons body awareness and awareness of their body in a space. Our proprioceptive system helps our body adjust to the many different things we face in every day life. For example, moving between different floor surfaces, walking, jumping, using utensils, writing. This sense helps us realises the level of force required for differing situations i.e. writing, or how tight to hold something. An interesting concept often taken for granted in our completion of day to day tasks. 

The vestibular sense aids and develops our movement and balance, it helps us balance, move, sit and stand. The early development of this sense is shown in a baby starting to hold its head up, learning to stand and then walk. We develop this sense which aids us to move smoothly, keep our balance and sit and stand upright. Vestibular processing is mostly continuous in our day to day movement. 

When thinking of outdoor play, we can provide items to allow for development and input for all senses in many different ways. Summer is a great time to use citrus fruits, flowers and herbs to create play stations and water play with scent and colour aplenty. Messy stations to allow freedom to explore with mud, natural paints, bubbles etc are all amazing activities that children love. It is also possible to use the idea to vestibular and proprioception senses to create even more play and development opportunities. These activities can be rocking, climbing, swinging, balancing, high energy movement, weighted activities, music, heavy work (push, pull, moving objects, carrying) and art. We can mix in other senses to these ideas, such as jumping in water, or blowing bubbles, obstacle courses and more. 

Here are some proprioception and vestibular items available from Cosy Direct that would make great additions to your sensory play areas:-

Playing with Bubbles

Bubbles Wands Set

Sponge for Mini Spot

Music Resources

Bamboo Chimes Frames

Weighted Resources

Beanbag Throwing Scarves

Sensory and Tactile weighted lap Pad

Balancing Resources

Balancer Bar Trio 3pk

Grass Bridge

Mini Climbing crest

Pole Grip Monkey Branch Bars

With thanks to Lisa Slade for this blog post

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